Metaverse: An Uncharted Utopia

To better online experiences, unexplored realities, & dimensions 🙂

We, as humans, sought entertainment and knowledge from the people and environment we
were surrounded by. This was soon replaced by television, which helped us switch between
different sources of entertainment and knowledge with the click of a button. The next big
advancement was the internet, which allowed us to access a multitude of information,
and entertainment and even seek new connections with people in geography altogether different
from our own. Thereafter, we got smartphones, which in a way, helped us carry all this in the
comfort of our pockets. As technology rapidly advanced, it changed and affected the way we
functioned as a society.

Last year ended with the buzz-term – “Metaverse”, when Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and
CEO of Facebook (now Meta), introduced his approach to the metaverse. The metaverse can
be thought of as the next stage of the internet and the evolution of human interactions in the
digital realm!

During Connect 2021 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg made clear his vision of the metaverse as a
place we can step into and access the full potential of human connection and interaction. He
announced that instead of focusing on interacting with technology, he aims to build
technology that focuses on interacting with each other.

The conceptual metaverse offers many opportunities. It would have a home space that we
could personalize with our virtual assets and allow us to return to, as our personal space in the
metaverse. The metaverse would also allow humans from one location to “teleport” in virtual
space, to another virtual or real location, where they could meet up, interact and virtually
share experiences. This would be possible through the advancement of AR, VR, and full-body
haptic suits
that would help recreate the sense of touch. The metaverse would also offer
opportunities to the creator community to produce assets for the different virtual worlds that
comprise the multiverse of the metaverse.

This would enable people to use their virtual currencies like cryptocurrency to buy virtual
assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs could be used to adorn virtual spaces and
stylize one’s digital avatar in the virtual world.

While some describe the metaverse as a place that supports the cohesive functioning of various
AR, VR, and mixed reality products, technology entrepreneur Shaan Puri has a very different
take on the metaverse. He argues that we need to accept that the metaverse will encompass
most of the aspects of our lives. “The metaverse is the moment in time where our digital life
is worth more to us than our physical life”
, he added.

While having the potential to create new opportunities, I believe there are many ways the
metaverse can be misused if precautions are not taken early on.

One of the biggest threats could be identity theft. Personal identification is fairly easy in the
real world, with government-mandated documents. However, in the metaverse, with people
being allowed to create multiple avatars, tracking and authentication would become a
problem. Since the avatar has the potential to be mimicked by another person or bot, it could
raise concerns about a person’s reputation.

Like all digital spaces, the metaverse will also be susceptible to hacking. Since a person’s
avatars in the metaverse could be completely different from their real selves, personal
verification might become more intrusive. A robust security system must be created to keep
personal data safe.

Law and jurisdiction are also other areas that would require thorough research. Stringent rules
and regulations should be set in place, universal throughout the metaverse. Since it is a virtual
space, people should not mistake it as a green card to commit vices that they wouldn’t do in
the real world. Being a highly immersive and engaging experience, real people behind
devices can still get physically affected if harmed in the metaverse.

As a designer, I believe that through the metaverse, we can design for more fulfilling and
user-centered experiences. But we should also remember that behind every screen and every
device, there is a human whose well-being must be at the center of the design process.
While the metaverse is still a long way from being omnipresent in society, we must also ask
ourselves to what degree we want to allow it to be a part of our lives.

We should explore ways to make it a multi-sensorial experience rather than just plugging ourselves in and disconnecting from the real world and the feeling of being human.

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